November 10, 2017

News Briefs – November 10, 2017

Morocco launches first spy satellite, gets strategic boost

MARRAKECH, Morocco–Morocco has launched its first observation satellite, to be used for military activities, surveillance of its borders and coastline and monitoring desertification in the region.

The Mohammed VI-A satellite was launched Nov. 8 from Kourou, French Guiana, in the presence of prominent Moroccan figures. It will be piloted from an operating center near the capital, Rabat.

The launch service provider Arianespace says that it will be used for mapping activities, spatial planning, monitoring of agricultural activities, prevention and management of natural disasters and monitoring of environmental developments.

The satellite was built by Airbus Defense & Space and Thales Alenia Space. A second launch is planned for 2018. The project’s cost has not been disclosed.

The launch has reportedly raised concern in rival neighbor Algeria, and in Spain. AP

Senate committee approves Trump’s pick for Army secretary

The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved the nomination of Raytheon Vice President Mark Esper to serve as President Donald Trump’s Army secretary.

The committee recommended by voice vote on Nov. 7 that the full Senate consider Esper’s nomination as well as several more of the president’s picks for other key Pentagon posts.

They are: Robert Wilkie to be undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness; Joseph Kernan to be undersecretary of defense for intelligence; and Guy Roberts to be assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs.

Esper has been Raytheon’s top lobbyist since 2010. He agreed, if confirmed, to recuse himself from matters related to Raytheon that may come before him.

Esper is Trump’s third choice for Army secretary, a post the president struggled to fill. AP

Taiwanese fighter jet goes missing above East China Sea

A Taiwanese fighter jet has gone missing while flying above the East China Sea north of Taiwan during a routine training exercise, the air force said Nov. 8.

The Mirage-2000 disappeared from radar screens just over a half-hour after taking off Tuesday evening from an air base in Hsinchu, south of the capital, Taipei, according to an air force statement.

Navy and coast guard ships and more than a dozen aircraft have been dispatched to search the area but with no result as of Nov. 8, the air force said. It said the pilot, Ho Tzu-yu, joined the air force more than a decade ago and had 227 hours of flight time in Mirages.

Air Force Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Chang Che-ping told reporters there had been no abnormal transmissions from Ho’s plane before it dropped off the radar screen at 6:43 p.m. Tuesday while flying at an altitude of 1,585 meters (5,200 feet). He said there was no indication Ho had ejected.

“The military will continue searching day and night until the person is safely rescued. There is no so-called `golden 72-hour’ limit,” Chang said, referring to the time frame after which finding a pilot alive becomes increasingly unlikely.

Taiwan purchased 60 Mirage-2000 jets from France during the 1990s, despite stiff opposition from China, which claims the island as its own territory and threatens to use military force to bring it under its control.

The planes have experienced mechanical problems in the past due to the harsh environment and high usage rates, but those problems were believed to have been largely overcome through technical upgrades.

Taiwan’s air force relies heavily on the Mirages, along with U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcons and homemade IDF fighters. Obstruction by Beijing has made purchases of foreign military hardware extremely difficult and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen this year announced a $2.1 billion investment in the production of air force jet trainers to be designed and manufactured on the island as part of a push to revive the domestic defense industry. AP

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